The Bear, a Comedy?
Did anyone else feel physical pain watching The Bear season one, only to see that it was nominated for Emmys as a “comedy”? Retraumatizing the industry simply with its existence and then doubling DOWN by calling itself a comedy.
When I expressed confusion, a friend offered the original definition of comedy and explained how Shakespeare wrote some of the first comedies. I (now) know it has more to do with the structure. Struggles + entertainment + an okay ending = comedy? While I can see how one might classify The Bear as comedy given this structure, can we at least agree to call it a dark or tragic comedy? My initial reaction to the nomination was— Wow… they’ve really tried to put service workers in our place again.
When the show first came out, even though it was difficult to watch, I was glad it existed. It felt like maybe people could actually understand the challenges our industry faces for once. That maybe we were being taken seriously. That maybe people could finally understand why there are forums dedicated to bitching about our job and why there are movements to increase mental health awareness and improved workspaces.
Watching The Bear season one felt to me like an obvious “what not to do” while the second season felt like, “okay… better.” But I don’t think everyone got the memo! Pop culture and the Emmy noms hit us like a punch in the gut.
It feels like people have a new insight into what we go through, but they view it like tourists— smiling and taking photos. They think we’re hot, but don’t want to date us. They know we work hard, but don’t treat us with respect when they dine in restaurants. They hear statistics on substance abuse and mental health issues due to the stresses of the job but don’t work to help improve them.
They know our pain now but remove themselves enough that they still don’t hold respect for what we do. The Bear and society’s reaction to it have somehow both humanized us and further ‘othered’ us when they should be building a positive path for us!
The show has a recipe. Stress + stress + stress = meltdown. Sometimes an episode would end on a light note, calling to memory the days when everything went wrong and I just had to take a deep breath and move forward. I watched the first season with my partner and when the new online to-go system popped off they said, “Can you imagine?” Yes… yes, I can. And I would’ve handled it differently but would have felt the same.
The industry is getting better, and employers are realizing that they need to offer us more. A lot of business models now offer benefits (finally, amirite?) and/or equity to employees.
Try shopping around on Poached if you don’t feel valued at work. You deserve to feel prioritized because what you do matters. The work you do builds communities and creates meaningful experiences. Service industry skills you have are sought after (even if people don’t realize it yet) and cannot be taught.
You have people skills, public speaking skills, sales skills, the ability to easily adapt, empathy (or faking empathy well), communication skills, listening skills, time management skills, skills of retaining evolving menu knowledge, thick skin, and the ability to learn from your mistakes.
Something we often talk about at Poached is whether the show itself or the viewers have romanticized the toxicity displayed in the first season. What do you think?